brian j plachta
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by brian j plachta on August 24th, 2018

The secular world teaches us to see things in black and white. This, not that. I’m a Democrat. You’re a Republican. I’m a Conservative. You’re a Liberal. I’m right, and if you’d only see things my way, you’d come to the light.  
 
This either/or way of viewing life divides us. It puts us into boxes. It spills over into the way we view the world and our ourselves. It shoves us into dualism.
 
Either/or thinking is a fallacy that presents two opposing options as the only options. You’re either for us or you’re against us. Often, however, the tension between two opposites can bring about a third, more creative, resolution to a situation—if we allow it to unfold. 
 

For example, if we look at ourselves as either good or bad, flawed or perfect, we adopt a false notion about ourselves. We limit our understanding of who we really are. 
 
The I’m flawed view continuously rubs our noses in our shortcomings. The I’m perfect lens eliminates any possibility for growth. 
 
A both-and perspective allows us to view ourselves honestly. It’s a holistic approach that invites us to acknowledge we’re made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, we are good. However, at times we screw up, and in those times of messiness, we can look back and determine how wisdom invites us to grow. This both-and perspective allows us to be who we are: human and divine—perfectly human. 
 
God reveals this both-and pattern in nature. He gave us the sun and the moon to balance the tides, to carve out time for rest and activity. He created darkness and light. He made us both human (with flesh and bones) and divine (created and guided by God’s love and wisdom). 
 

The both-and pattern is also embodied through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Through this historic event, God revealed the beauty of humanity and showed us that in the face of our failures, God’s unconditional love makes all things new.
 
As we mature, we recognize the limitations of either/or thinking and move instead toward a both-and perspective. We’re able to identify and hold the tension of opposites as a holy tension. And when we recognize the piece of truth each opposite contains, we can then put them together and discover the Whole. In doing so, we become Whole-makers. 
 
Perhaps a new era of whole-making is evolving as we learn to move individually and collectively beyond dualistic either/or thinking. Maybe it’s time we git our “both-and” on.
 
 
 
 
Ponder:  Either/or thinking often limits us. It hides the whole. Both-and thinking allows us to see the partial truth of each opposite and then put them together to create a whole. 
 
Practice: Notice when you get stuck in either/or thinking. When you do, name the two opposites, and then put them together by applying both-and thinking to discover the deeper truth the opposites reveal.

---brian j plachta
brianplachta.net


 
 

by brian j plachta on August 17th, 2018

Stop. 
Close your Eyes. 
 
What do you hear?  
What do you feel?
 
Mourning doves whistling ancient love songs?  
Air cascading through your lungs? 
God’s breath caressing your skin?
 
These are Divine Energies of Love. 
Expressions of the One who places Spirit into Matter. 
The Spirit of Love that has existed from Eternity. 
The Spirit that takes shape in and through you. 
 
You In-Body God.
You are Divine Energy—the Creative Expression of an Ageless Love that breathes Spirit
into the flesh and bones of your body.
 
You reflect Divine Beauty.
You are made in the image and likeness of the Creator—
the same Creator who expresses himself through
dancing seagulls 
redwood forests 
starlit skies
velvety cats
and faithful dogs.


You are held in a Cloud of Divine Love—
Love that embraces, nourishes, and sustains you. 
 
Imagine this life-giving Cloud encircling you. 
Breathe in the Spirit of Love swirling round you.
See the warm white light of your Soul flickering gently behind your heart.
 
Close your eyes. 
Open your heart. 
Let Divine Love hold you.
Let Divine Love ground you. 

Be who you already are—you In-Body God.
 
 
 
 
Ponder:To embody God means to reflect him. To In-Body God means to realize his Spirit lives and breathes within you, within your heart as life-giving energy. Radiance. 
 
Try this: Imagine a warm white light like an Eternal Flame flickering behind your heart. This is your Soul. What do you notice? What do you feel?  
 
 
—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net


 

by brian j plachta on August 11th, 2018

I often catch myself acting like Judge Judy, banging my gavel to declare who or what’s good or bad. My inner Judge Judy adjudicates the overweight person at the gym, the slow cashier at the grocery store, and the nervous driver in front of me. 
 
It’s not only bad things I judge. Instead of savoring the fragrance of a lilac bush, I proclaim it as beautiful and give it my seal of approval as if I were the judge of the universe.
 
The left side of my brain slices and dices most everything into categories of “good” or “bad.”  And perhaps the one I judge most is myself. Depending upon the day, the circumstances, and my mood, an underlying tension flows within me like static electricity as I vacillate between whether I’m good or bad. 
 
I wish I could flip a switch in my brain and get it to stop judging. But our brains don’t work that way—there’s no on-and-off switch.  
 
Instead, I’m learning I can quiet my inner Judge Judy by replacing negative thoughts with a positive thought or image. That’s because our brains can think only one thought at a time. 
 
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You are what you think all day long.” So maybe the key to quieting our judgmental minds is to catch ourselves when we’re listening to our inner grump, and shift our thoughts to positive ones. 
 
Lately, when I catch myself judging someone or something, I replace that thought with something better, something more life-giving. 
 
The opposite of a negative judgment is respect. Honor. So, when I judge the overweight gym enthusiast, I bless her instead for having the courage and fortitude to get out there and shake it up. 
 
When I’m overwhelmed by the aroma of a lilac bush, I honor its beauty by stopping, closing my eyes, and thanking the Creator for the gift of its fragrance. 
 
I would like to become a man with hands folded gently against his chest, filled with namaste for life; a man who honors and respects himself and all Creation with mind, body, and spirit. Perhaps holding onto that image will help me become more like the man I want to be. 
 
Judge Judy’s been holding court in our heads for too long now. It’s time to quiet her—time to replace our negative thoughts with positive words and images—and grow into the best version of ourselves—the person we’re created to be. 
 
 
—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Key Point: Judging ourselves and others becomes a bad habit that turns us into grumps.
 
Try This:  Find a word or image that helps replace your inner judge. When you catch yourself judging, use that word or image to develop compassion for yourself and others. 
 
 

by brian j plachta on August 3rd, 2018

 “Our hearts are always leading us,” a spiritual mentor instructed me years ago. “And eventually, our feet catch up.”
 
Her insight inspires me. It reminds me that our hearts (not our minds) are the core of our Being. Our hearts are the inner GPS (global positioning system) that links our mind, body, and emotions so they work in harmony. We can rely upon this heart-based connection to balance and rebalance our lives and grow in inner peace and wisdom.
 
The task is to listen to our hearts and then, let them guide us as we journey through life.
 
One way to see whether we’re letting our hearts lead—instead of our bossy minds—is to look at the nine-character traits of heart-based living: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23).
 
By occasionally scanning our hearts to see how often these positive attributes show up in our daily lives and attitudes, we can monitor and adjust our life’s course—much like we do with a GPS.
 
Here’s a way to fact-check ourselves regarding each life-giving quality:
 

Love—Am I experiencing deeper connections with God, others, and myself?

Joy—Do I have a growing sense of awe as I realize I’m safe and my life has purpose?

Peace—Does an inner calm flow through me as I remember “All is well?”

Patience—Am I willing to let life unfold naturally?

Kindness—Do my words and actions build up myself and others?

Generosity—Do I live the law of abundance, knowing what I have is “enough,” and then share my “enough” with others?

Faithfulness—Do I trust my Higher Power and work with him as a team—he’s the coach and I’m the player?

Gentleness—Are my words and actions peaceful? Do I practice pausing before I respond to others so I can remain calm, centered?

Self-control—Do I observe my behavior and gently correct it when it needs adjustment? 

I took a few moments recently to do a heart-scan using the above check-in questions. I realized my self-control could use some rebalancing. I’ve developed a snarky inner critic that judges myself and others by my self-imposed standards. And that snark can come out sideways and begin trash-talking out loud.  
 
So, I asked the Creator to give me the gentle discipline to notice and correct my self-talk when the inner critic grabs the throne. I asked him to help me let go of negativity and lean into the fruit of kindness so my words build up myself and others. 
 
I also found this self-check affirmed areas where I’m finding more balance. The gift of faithfulness continues to grow stronger as I lean into God as my Divine Coach who helps me call the plays on the field of daily life. And when I notice an imbalance in my attitudes and behavior, I’m becoming more willing to stop and ask the Creator for directions. 
 
Maybe doing a heart-check is one way we can practice becoming the best version of ourselves. And after some practice, perhaps we can stop, look back over our shoulders, and realize our hearts were always leading us. Eventually, our feet caught up.
 
 

 
 
Ponder: Let your heart lead, and your feet catch up.
 
Something to try:  Take a heart-scan using the above questions. In which areas are you growing? Where are you being invited to rebalance your GPS?
 
 
 —brian j plachta
brianplachta.net


 
 

by brian j plachta on July 28th, 2018

There is in each of us a Pure Self
a Deep Self known only to us and God.
 
The Deep Self is in our Hearts. 
It knows us, 
loves us, 
connects us to the Creator through our Soul. 
 

Our Deep Self is a Wisdom Seeker.
Guided by the Holy Spirit,
It listens, learns, and integrate life’s Universal Truths
and then reveals them through compassion. 
 
Our Deep Self is not concerned with what others think about us.  
It makes its mark on the world through Loving Presence. 
It knows who It is—God’s Abiding Friend. 
 
Our Deep Self lives at a boundless level
of connection and understanding,
a third consciousness
beyond the intellect and ego.  

 
Our Deep Self is humble. 
Teachable.
It knows that our human perfections and imperfections
are all part of the rich tapestry of the Sacred Self. 
 
Discover your Deep Self.
Live from, in, and through that Self.  
 
As you step into the Truth of who you really are, 
don’t let others manipulate that Self for their own needs, 
projecting their problems and fears onto you.  
 
Instead, learn from those false teachers.
Allow their harsh words to bounce off your chest
And ricochet with Compassion toward yourself and others.  
 
Experience your Deep Self through nature. 
Find rest and inspiration in God’s beauty. 
 
Allow your Deep Self to nudge you,
teach you how to let go when you’re clinging,
how to live from the Inner Peace of holy detachment. 
 
Take time
to discover your Deep Self. 
 
It’s waiting for you. 
Take Its hand. 

 
 
 
 
Ponder:  There’s a Deep Self within each of us. Some call it the True Self, the Sacred Self, or the Face Before We Were Born. Whatever you call it, allow yourself to find and befriend It. 
 
Something to Try: Find two or three pictures that represent your Deep Self. Post them as a screen saver on your computer or cell phone, or hang them on a mirror to remind you of who you really are. 

by brian j plachta on July 22nd, 2018

A friend is volunteering for the next five weeks at a children’s orphanage in Zimbabwe. The children range from ages 5-17 she reports. They’ve been raped, abandoned, and have no material possessions except the clothes they’ve been given and the bed they sleep in. 
 
“They’ve been through so much. They have nothing,” my friend says. “Yet their faces glow with joy. As I pick up the children and hold them to my heart, their smiles fill me with inner warmth.”
 
She wonders,

Why is it, that we in the Western world have so many possessions—cars, houses, education, jobs, family—yet we’re still searching for something we can’t quite name? If we could only get that new job, read another self-help book, get that one person in our lives to love us—then we’d be happy. Fulfilled. But when we do, we move on, searching for something more. We’re never satisfied with what we have.” 
 
Vietnamese monk Thich Nat Hahn writes that everything we need to be happy is contained within us. All we have to do is stop, be still, and become aware of the peace and love that fills us.
 
Maybe these orphans remind us that peace and happiness are an inside job. It’s in our hearts. And regardless of our circumstances, no one can take that peace away from us. It’s a peace that surpasses understanding. When we connect with it, even momentarily, it calms us, grounds us, guides us. 
 
Here’s a practice called the “Inside Job” to connect with the inner peace within our hearts. 
 
Find a quiet place. 
Sit. 
Close your eyes. 
Take several deep breaths. 
Focus your attention on your heart. 
Imagine your heart flowing like a river with peace and love.
Is there a picture that rises up in your imagination? What is it? 
Play with it. Enjoy it. 
Is there an emotion or feeling in your body you notice? Name it. 
Experience it. Savor it. 
Take your time. 
Linger. 
Then, when you’re ready, bring yourself back to the present moment, to the place you’re sitting. Open your eyes.
What did you notice? What did you experience?

 
The Inside Job moves us out of our thinking minds and into our heart-space—the place we connect with ourselves and our Higher Power. It’s as if we’ve been given an umbilical cord flowing from the Creator’s heart to ours. And all we need do to connect with it is to stop, become aware of the love and wisdom that flow within our hearts, and experience the deep peace that dwells there. Inner Peace.
 
Many faith traditions teach that taking the time for silence is the missing link for those of us who wander aimlessly in the Western world seeking something more. Whether we call the practice of silence the Inside Job, meditation, contemplation or prayer, each point us toward the inner work we can and must do to live from the heart. To find that happiness is an inside job. 
 
 
Main Point:The practice of silence connects us with our heart-space. It’s key to inner peace.
 
Try This:  Each day this week take 10-20 minutes to sit in silence and practice the Inside Job (or whatever form of meditation that’s life-giving for you). After a week, notice if your daily practice grounds you, allows you to experience deeper peace and happiness throughout the day. 
 
 
—brian j plachta
www.brianplachta.net
 


by brian j plachta on July 15th, 2018

I wish there were a switch in our brains we could flip when negative thoughts intrude. I wish there were a way to push away the inner critic who often sabotages us, so we could develop and sustain healthy, positive self-images. Not puffed-up images of ourselves, but honest, “I’m a good person, perfectly human” self-perceptions. 

And, I discovered, there is a way.

There is a switch in our brains we can flip whenever we choose—it’s our self-talk.
We can choose our thoughts. We can determine which words we’ll entertain and those we release. 


We can grouse about ourselves and others all day long. We can judge ourselves and our imperfections until those negative thoughts become a broken record. We then become grouchy grumps.

Or we can replace our negative self-talk with positive words and images. The tipping point is awareness—learning to monitor our self-talk. 

For example, the simple words, “I love and respect myself,” can become a mantra—words to chew on and digest like feeding ourselves steak instead of garbage. 

So, I decided for a week I’d practice flipping the switch in my brain. Each time I noticed a negative thought creeping in, I replaced it with the mantra, “I love and respect myself.”

The first thing I noticed was that savoring those words eased my tension, relaxed my forehead, and slowed my breathing. The mantra calmed me as my anxious thinking was replaced with gentle kindness.

Unfortunately, replacing those negative tapes with positive ones doesn’t come naturally. It takes work to develop this new way of thinking—especially if we’re in the habit of allowing an army of negative thoughts run rampant through our brains.

I realized too that I needed to ask God for help. I need his grace—his positive energy—to let this flip-switching become a lifestyle and a deeper, more honest way of respecting myself and others. 

Slowly throughout the week, the practice took hold. When I noticed a negative thought scud-missile its way into my head, I shot it down with my mantra, “I love and respect myself.” 
As I did, I paused, took a few relaxing breaths, and smiled at myself. It felt good—definitely a lot better than the negative static electricity I’d become accustomed to carrying around within me. 

As my self-respect grew, I noticed I also had deeper compassion for others. When the clerk at the grocery store snarled at me because I dropped my change on the counter, my mantra, “I love and respect myself,” rose up instantly within me. I cut myself and the clerk some slack for being human. 

Perhaps respecting ourselves is what Jesus meant when he invited us to love God, love others, and love ourselves. And the tool to live from that more authentic place of self-compassion is within our grasp. We just need to flip the switch of our negative self-talk and practice love and respect for ourselves. 

Try it this week. Flip the negative switch in your brain with a positive mantra—a word or short phrase of self-respect. See what happens.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net

by brian j plachta on July 10th, 2018



Albert Einstein once said, “I love humanity but I hate humans.” It’s a harsh statement, but I have to admit, sometimes I feel his pain.
 
Don’t get me wrong, I love lots of people—my wife, my children, my friends. But I get irritated by the business next door that takes my clients’ parking spots. I grumble at the neighbor who cuts his grass at 7:00 in the morning when I’m trying to sit and enjoy my coffee in silence. And when a bunch of these irritants gang up on me all at once, I reach a tipping point. I soon leak with resentment.
 
The other day, I was sitting in prayer mulling over several problems buzzing around my life like pesky mosquitos. During my lament, this scripture popped up in my head like God had just thrown a paper airplane at me: 
 
“In this world you will have trouble. Find your peace in me. I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
 
The words melted my victim heart. My self-pity shifted toward Divine Wisdom. 
 
Jesus warned us we’d experience problems in life. It’s part of learning to get along with each other. God knows, Jesus had his share of turmoil during his earthly life. 
 
The words from scripture reminded me to practice acceptance.

Accept that life is messy. People are messy, and I’m messy too. Accept life, yourself, and others on life’s terms.
 
And the way to move through life’s tensions and hectic pace is to turn our attention toward God.  Seek his peace. Go to him for the wisdom to know how to handle each situation. Dig deep into the silence of our hearts and ask the Creator what to do with each problem that arises. Then, listen. Wait. Let the answer unfold.
 
So, I tried that with a problem I was having with a friend. I laid the situation out to God and asked, “What should I do?  How should I handle this?”
 
After sitting and listening for twenty minutes, the answer rose up. Talk to the person with love. Explain your feelings. Identify the problem. Focus on the solution.
 
Later that day, I reached out to my friend. We had a great conversation. We resolved the issue, shook hands, and moved into the solution. We even laughed, recalling the motto we’d committed several years ago to practice: “focus on the problem, and the problem will increase. Focus on the solution, and the solution will increase.”
 
I guess finding your peace in God is much more than a pithy saying. It’s an important tool available for us to use. Accept that life is full of ups and downs. And when the downs get the best of you, pick up the tool of silence, bring your problems to the Creator, ask for the answers, and listen. 
 
That’s how he guides us with his Wisdom. That’s how we find our peace in him. 
 
 
 
Main Point:  Asking God how to handle life’s problems is the way we find guidance and peace. 
 
Action Step: Take twenty minutes each day to sit in silence. During that time, bring to God a problem you’re having. Ask him how to handle it. Then listen. Wait. Let the answer unfold in your heart. 
 
 
—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net

by brian j plachta on July 2nd, 2018

Each of us have unique talents and gifts. They’re part of our DNA. And no one can exercise your gifts like you can because no one has the exact same ones.
 
The spiritual word for talents and gifts is “charism.” It’s a Greek word meaning favor or gratuitous gift. Charisms are special abilities given to each person by the Creator to empower them to be a channel of God’s love and goodness in the world.
 
When you use your talents, you come alive. You become the best version of yourself, and the world becomes a better place. Like the morning bird that greets the day with its jubilant chorus, when you sing your life-song, you and the world are filled with greater joy, happiness, and peace. You’re empowered. Energized. You embrace what Jesus says you already are: The Light of the world. And your Light shines.
 
I didn’t realize what my spiritual talents were until my mid-30s. It was then I stumbled upon the Catherine of Sienna Institute and its Spiritual Gifts Inventory. The Inventory consists of a series of questions to answer. You then match your answers to twenty-four possible charisms. Your top five scores point to your spiritual gifts. 
 
When I took the Inventory, I determined my top five gifts were encouragement, service, teaching, writing, and leadership. The next step was to discern how I was being invited to use those gifts in a practical way that’s life-giving for me and others. To do so, I worked with my spiritual director, prayed, discerned, and got more training as a spiritual mentor and writer.
 
While going through the process of identifying and nurturing my gifts, I’ve discovered using them excites and energizes me. I’ve come to a deeper understanding of who I am and learned more about my life’s purpose.
 
Scripture says the church is supposed to help people discover their gifts and put them to work building up the Body of Christ. That’s how we’re wired—gifted and called.
 

Our first step then is to discover our gifts. We can do so by taking a spiritual gifts inventory.

Two good resources for such an inventory are the Catherine of Sienna Institute and Strengths Finder.  It also helps to find a mentor with whom you can discuss your gifts, learn from their journey, and determine how you’re being invited to use your gifts in the world.
 
Spiritual Giant Frederick Buechner writes,

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
 

Perhaps that deep desire within each of us, that longing to become the best version of ourselves, is directly related to discovering the power of our gifts and putting them at the service of the world. Maybe that’s how life’s supposed to work—discovering the power of our gifts and using them in a way that’s life-giving for ourselves and the world.
 

 
 
______________________________________________________________________________
 
Key Point: Discovering and using our spiritual gifts is life-giving for us and the world.
 
Action Step:  Take a spiritual gifts inventory. Shoot me an email if you’d like a copy of one or if you simply want to learn more. 


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net
 

 
 
 
 


by brian j plachta on June 24th, 2018



I often see handwritten signs posted on trees along the expressway telling us to “Trust Jesus.” I never knew what to make of those signs. Who writes them? What do they mean?

One day as I sat in the quiet and pondered, it came to me that “Trusting Jesus” is the first step toward trusting ourselves. To “trust Jesus” is to trust the Inner Voice of Wisdom God gave each of us. 

Trusting Jesus means getting to know the Voice of God within us—taking time to sit in the quiet each day and pondering the questions we face daily. Am I on the right track? Do you love me? How are you inviting me to grow? What should I do with this situation?

Slowly that barely audible whisper from God becomes louder, more familiar. We learn to sense its Presence, its nudges, its unique tone that reverberates in us. We come to know and trust the Voice of Love. 

My family recently brought to my attention a bad habit I’d fallen into. At first, I felt shamed, disappointed in myself. I should be further along on my journey. 

But instead of resisting what they told me, I sat in the quiet and pondered the situation several mornings in a row. Eventually, by sitting alone with God, I heard the Voice of Love silently tell me I was being taught humility, that life is about progress not perfection, and that God was speaking through my loved ones teaching me unconditional love for them, myself, and the Creator. And God’s giving me the grace to break the bad habit and grow.

In trusting Jesus and the Voice of Love present within and around me, I’m coming to a place where I can trust myself knowing the Creator helps us discern his invitation—his movement—in our lives as we seek his guidance. 

Now when I see those signs along the highway inviting us to Trust Jesus, I add to that message: Trust Jesus—so you can learn to trust yourself, your spiritual center, and the Voice of Love—the Real Presence in each of us.


Key Point: Each of us has been given an Inner Compass—the Voice of Love that seeks to inspire and guide us with Wisdom.

Action Step: Take 10-20 minutes each day to sit in the silence. Listen for God’s nudges, his invitations, his Voice of Love.

​—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net





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